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Jazz Music Essay Research Paper What is

Jazz Music Essay, Research Paper

What is Jazz? According to the dictionary, jazz is defined as, ?A kind of

syncopated, highly rhythmic music originated by Southern blacks in the late 19th

century? (?Jazz? 232). But, everyone should at least agree that jazz is

the mother of all music, and is referred to as the only art form originating in

the United States (?History 101? 2). America was home to immigrants from all

over Europe and beyond who wished to build a new life, or just needed to escape

from the old. These people, often thought of as second-class, brought their

culture with them to America, expressed it musically, and changed the music

world as we know it today. Most early jazz was played in small marching bands or

by solo pianists. Besides ragtime and marches, the repertoire included hymns,

spirituals, and blues. The bands played this music at picnics, weddings,

parades, and funerals. Characteristically, the bands played hymns on the way to

funerals and lively marches on the way back. Although blues and ragtime had

arisen independently of jazz, and continued to exist alongside it, these genres

influenced the style and forms of jazz and provided important vehicles for jazz

improvisation. Around the turn of the 20th century, the earliest fully

documented jazz style emerged, centered in New Orleans, Louisiana. This city is

often called the ?cradle of jazz? (?History 101? 3). In this style, the

trumpet carried the melody, the clarinet played showy countermelodies, and the

trombone played rhythmic slides and sounded the root notes of chords or simple

harmony. Below this basic trio, the tuba or string bass provided a bass line and

drums the rhythmic accompaniment. New Orleans jazz was just the beginning of an

entire sweep across the county. The first true virtuoso soloist of jazz was

Louis Armstrong. He was a dazzling improviser, technically, emotionally, and

intellectually. He changed the format of jazz by bringing the soloist to the

forefront, and in his recording groups, the ?Hot Five? and the ?Hot

Seven? (Porter 2), demonstrated that jazz improvisation could go far beyond

simply ornamenting the melody. He became the first well known male jazz singer,

and also set standards for all later jazz singers, by creating scat singing:

singing meaningless syllables instead of words, not unlike instrumental

improvisation. During the 1920s, large groups of jazz musicians began to play

together, forming the big bands that became so popular in the 1930s and early

1940s, (the swing era). The development of the big band can be majorly credited

to the achievement of Duke Ellington and his revolutionary song, ?It Don?t

Mean a Thing If It Ain?t Got That Swing? (?Jazz Music? 54). This soon

became the new word for music played with a happy, relaxed beat. A new style

also started in the early 1940?s when a group of musicians started

experimenting with more complicated chord patterns and melodic ideas. This group

included trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, and

pianists Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell. This new approach became known as

bebop, or bop. Most bop musicians had exceptional techniques that enabled them

to play long, dazzling phrases with many notes. In the 1940?s and 1950?s,

jazz began to lose its reputation as a ?lowdown? music, and gained

acceptance among intellectuals and college students. Jazz concerts became

popular. Duke Ellington and other big band leaders gave many concerts, and a

group of improvising musicians made a series of nationwide tours called ?Jazz

at the Philharmonic? (?Jazz Music? 56). Jazz music was revolutionary and

is still changing and improving, even today. The music world today would not be

the same without the influence of these amazing and breathtaking musicians.

?History 101.? Jazz Central: The true home of jazz. Jul. 1998. 1-4.

?Jazz.? Webster?s New World Dictionary. Cleveland, OH: Simon and Schuster,

Inc., 1989. 232. ?Jazz Music.? The World Book Encyclopedia. 1974 ed. Porter,

Lewis. ?Jazz.? The 1998 Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Aug. 1997. 1-12.

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